International women's day

Subject to change - educating and resilience thinking

To celebrate International Women's Day, we highlight five of our woman researchers. Centre researcher and director of the Master's programme, Miriam Huitric, explains her role and research on complex ecosystem dynamics

Story highlights

  • Miriam is researcher and the director of the MSc programe Social-Ecological Resilience for Sustainable Development
  • She was instrumental in publishing the Arctic Resilience Reports
  • Throughout her career, she completed fieldwork in Thailand and Belize

Miriam is a researcher and involved in education as director of studies for Bachelor and Master’s level studies, and director of the Master’s programme, Social-Ecological Resilience for Sustainable Development (SERSD).

Miriam works intensively on education activities at the SRC, and has done so since its inception. She was part of the team that planned and structured the Master’s programme, SERSD. Her work here involves overseeing the programme's contents and progression, following students during their time here, as well as teaching course modules.

Shrimp, lobsters and the Arctic

Her research built on her experience in transdisciplinary approaches to understanding social-ecological systems.

“What I am particularly interested in is how well can we or do we understand the ecological systems that we are embedded in? I have looked at that in different ways.”

Miriam began her academic career at the Department of Systems Ecology at Stockholm University where she wrote her doctoral thesis. Her research focused on the mis-matches between institutions and the ecosystems they attend to, using the shrimp farming industry in Thailand and the lobster and conch fisheries in Belize as examples.

“In that work I was using Elinor Ostrom’s guide for governing the commons as a good way of translating what was taking place there. From signals from the environment, signals that something is not quite right. How did that translate into the rules that were managing this industry?”

Her findings demonstrated that even severe changes in a resource and/or its environment can have limited impact on the institutions governing its use. Furthermore, while many expect a well-structured and successful social system related to resource use to respond to changes in the system they depend on, this is not necessarily the case.

“It is not possible to study the social or ecological system in isolation if one wants to understand the dynamics between resource users and their resource base. The social-ecological system needs to be the point of departure.”

More recently, Miriam has worked with worked with the Arctic Resilience Report, a large project being led by the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Stockholm Environment Institute (LINK). The report looked into how changes in the Arctic were affecting the livelihoods of communities in these areas.

Over a three-year period, this involved extensive data collection and analysis of case studies for the report, which Miriam was coordinating together with her colleagues Juan Rocha and Garry Peterson.

Miriam holds a PhD from the former Department of Systems Ecology at Stockholm University. She began her academic career looking at mis-matches between institutions and their ecosystems, using the shrimp farming industry in Thailand and the lobster and conch fisheries in Belize as case studies.

What skills as a researcher do you teach to our students here at the Centre?

One example, is teaching students to engage with one another in a meaningful way so they can apply the outcomes of their collaboration to questions of relevance in a research context.

“We have a year of courses and have developed a curriculum that gives our students a suitcase of skills that we want our students to gain before they engage in research. This includes tacit skills that are not explicit in the curriculum that we want our students to gain.”

Every year, a small group of students come to the Centre with a range of disciplinary backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, work and world experiences, and they have to engage with each other to solve-problems. They learn that despite sometimes irreconcilable differences there is still space to understand each other and move forward in a new understanding.

“This kind of work-method is a big goal and challenge in research but the first step is to be able to come together, be able to speak to each other and map where you are coming from. That is a really good example of a skill that will set them up for transdisciplinary science and research in sustainability science in the future.”

Who is a woman that inspires you in your work?

Elinor Ostrom, who is a well-known researcher and political economist who won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for her analysis of economics governance, especially the commons.

“Her work was of such elegance, relevance and thoroughness. She was also a role model because of how she worked. As researchers we forget that we are individuals with a potential power, be it at a local scale in the classroom, in the field or beyond. She had a high integrity and space that she gave people she worked with. She was someone you could drop off anywhere and she would be able to engage with the people she interacted with, respectfully. She was also incredibly supportive of people below her or in their younger ranks, willing to share her experiences, she listened attentively and engaged and encouraged especially young women, having had her own challenging academic struggle to get to where she had been but she didn’t undervalue the important of that reality in academia.”

International Women's Day

To celebrate Internation Women's Day, we are highlighting some of our women staff at SRC. We also asked our colleauges about women that ispire them and why. Follow the links below to read more:

Highlighting women in sustainability science

Anne-Sophie Crépin, researcher and deputy director of the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics

Sarah Cornell, interdisciplinary researcher

Jennifer Hinton, PhD candidate

Beatrice Crona, associate professor

Published: 2018-03-07